2020 was the sort of year that makes a dumpster fire look pretty good. As a person who writes about food and restaurants, it’s been a grim time. There have been some notable openings but a lot of closings, as well, and overall the service industry has been hammered.
Nobody reading this column is hearing that for the first time, of course. I mention it at the outset to make sure that if you are new to this column, you know that I am aware of it, too. Because I’m going to try to write something amusing, and I don’t want it to come off as disrespectful. That said:
Here are our annual predictions! “Haute Plates” has a storied history of making predictions that turn out to be true. We have employed a crack team of prognosticators based in Finland since the late 1980s, and while those prognosticators have given way to younger, less Finnish seers, the output has remained consistently excellent.
For example, in 1994, we predicted that vanilla would be used in many very small, savory dishes and that sun-dried tomatoes were going to be big. In the early 2000s, we pegged frozen yogurt, cupcakes, and Nepalese cuisine as trends that would be huge. Two out of three ain’t bad – sorry, fro-yo!
We forecast the popularity of bacon and cheese as a topping on hamburger sandwiches in a piece titled “HEARTBURN TOWN, POPULATION: YOU.” We were among the first websites to spot the farm-to-table trend, and our readers learned of “tapenade,” “pesto,” and “Swabian Maultaschen” before anyone else.
We’ve had some misses. We were pretty sure that stuffed raisins would blow up in 2003, because who doesn’t love a stuffed raisin? We did not foresee the popularity of pizza, and we regret forecasting that celebrity chefs Guy Fieri and Rachael Ray would marry. Though in the latter case, as far as we know they’re both still alive, so we may yet be proven right. (Predicted children’s names: Ascot, Butter, and Hookins.)
In that light, here for your gratification and possible exploitation are Haute Plates’ predictions for 2021:
Popup drive-in movies
Popups that offer a movie and dinner to people willing to stay in their cars for the duration will start as underground affairs but eventually will be licensed. A big wall and a parking lot are the only requirements, geographically speaking, and “Haute Plates” understands that there are powerful, compact devices for projecting moving pictures onto large surfaces. Throw in a good three-course menu paired to the movie, and make it BYOB, and it will blow up. It is a trend that will last about six months, please and thank you.
Fried insects are primed for a breakthrough in 2021. All of the pieces are in place – there are a lot of insects, and people will eat fried things. They’re already popular in other parts of the world, and this year someone is going to throw buffalo sauce on crispy bugs and we’ll all wish we’d registered the domain “crispycrickets.com.” (Don’t bother; it is not available.)
Lettuce lettuce wraps
This is the year Americans recognize that the best thing about a lettuce wrap is the lettuce. Why distract from the flavor of the lettuce by adding extraneous fillings? A little salt, a little oil, and a misting of lemon juice, wrapped in a big lettuce leaf: Lettuce lettuce wraps are a salad you can eat out of hand! Why bother with a knife, or even worse, a fork when you can use the hands at the end of your lazy arms?
When a grape grows up, it wants to be a raisin, and stuffed raisins are finally going to get their due in 2021. With fillings like tiny slices of olive, finely minced anchovy, or tweezer-sized portions of blue cheese, customers will line up for the things in the coming year. Haute Plates envisions tasting menus of great complexity and lots of fiber on the horizon. Free marketing slogan to those interested: “Stuffed raisins … like stuffed olives but smaller and with raisins!” You’re welcome.
Fruit of the year: The Cavendish banana. Get ’em while you can!
Vegetable of the year: Celery. It’s inoffensive! It’s crispy! It’s called for in most of the recipes in the cookbooks you’ve inherited from family! Waldorf salad, anyone?
Green of the year: Lettuce. ::mic drop::
Meat of the year: Goat. Move over, Bessie, there’s a new meat in town! It’s a delicious alternative to beef or lamb, and let’s not forget that goats are clever, vicious animals that would eat you if they had a chance.
Seafood of the year: Mussels. A wise man once said of mussels, “So here are some mussels. You can see the beard here. You know, when I was in Greece, 30 years ago, I bought a glove, a glove to open oyster. The glove is woven from the beard of mussel.” That man was Jacques Pépin and not Jean Claude Van Damme, but Van Damme’s home country of Belgium is famous for its mussel dishes, and his nickname is the Muscles from Brussels. Res ipsa loquitur.
We hope you will enjoy 2021 and continue to patronize Haute Plates.